Living Wisely

Key Verse: “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.”
—James 3:13, New International Version

Lesson Scripture:
James 3

THE APOSTLE JAMES gives good, solid advice for Christian living in his epistle. He starts with the need to accept trials as a necessary part of gaining the crown of life. He reminds us that we will need patience in all of our trials, and that we should seek for wisdom from the giver of every good and perfect gift in full assurance of faith. Now he advises us on how we should live wisely and well by controlling a small, but unruly, member of the body—the tongue.

He uses many effective illustrations on how we can control our bodies by control of the tongue. One is the bit put in the horse’s mouth to enable the rider to steer the body of the horse. Another is the rudder of a large ship which is used to steer the ship. The tongue, if used correctly, can steer us in the right direction. If not controlled by the new mind, it can cause great harm. James reminds us that with the tongue we can praise God, and curse men who are in God’s image. The tongue can be destructive, and James uses the illustration of a spark burning up a large forest.

He says, “The tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell.” (vs. 6) James is reminding us how destructive the tongue can be. When we use slander, and speak evil of someone, even by insinuations or hints, we destroy character, and this is a good picture of the tongue setting ‘on fire.’ It is interesting to note that James says ‘it [the tongue] is set on fire of hell.’ The word translated hell is not the usual hades in the Greek, but rather the word gehenna. This is a word associated with second death or complete destruction. The warning is that such destructive use of the tongue could lead to second death.

In beginning his lesson on the tongue, James says, “Do not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that we shall receive a severer judgment.” (vs. 1, Wilson’s Emphatic Diaglott) The elders, or teachers of the church, are like the tongues, or spokesmen, of the church. It is important that their knowledge should be imparted with the Spirit of Christ. Hence, these warnings and advice for wise living by the Apostle James apply not only to members of the church, but to its elders as well.

His concluding remarks emphasize that bitter envyings and strife are an expression of wisdom that is “sensual” and “devilish,” that does not come from above—from God. (vss. 14-16) Rather, “the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy.” (vs. 17) If our tongues seek to express God’s wisdom, we can be assured that we are living wisely.

In God’s kingdom there will be consistency, as the new body which people will receive will control the tongue. James asks, “Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter? Can the fig tree, my brethren, bear olive berries? either a vine, figs? so can no fountain both yield salt water and fresh.” (James 3:11,12) So also shall the words of our Key Verse be applied by all who will live wisely.

Dawn Bible Students Association
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